By KELSEY THALHOFER

Capital Press

The Oregon Association of Nurseries resource center will be one of many new elements at this year's Farwest Show.

In past years, the OAN, which produces the show, used a small booth to connect with attendees. This year the organization is using an island booth at the center of the show floor to enhance visitors' experiences and to help show growers how to improve the efficiency and sustainability of their business.

The organization has partnered with Food Alliance and Salmon-Safe, and both will contribute to the resource center.

"Oregon really does take a leadership role in terms of thinking about sustainability," said Roberta Anderson, business development director for Food Alliance.

Food Alliance, a Portland nonprofit that began as a sustainability resource and certification tool for food producers, is now helping teach nurseries about the benefits of sustainable practices. The sustainability standard requires nurseries to use energy and resources efficiently, treat workers safely and fairly and manage pests, diseases and weeds without using harmful chemicals.

"We believe that being certified as a sustainable nursery will have market value," said Ann Murphy, OAN director of marketing.

"It demonstrates you're a thoughtful, progressive business owner," Anderson said. "It gives those leaders a tool to bring something new and special to their customers."

Salmon-Safe, a Portland nonprofit that helps preserve salmon habitats by certifying businesses through a similar process, will contribute to the booth as well. Nurseries certified by the group work to control keep soil and harmful chemicals out of streams and use water from irrigation sources that are less likely to impact fish.

The resource center will also showcase OAN's Lean Team, which uses the manufacturing program pioneered by Toyota to help growers become more efficient and reduce costs, risks and waste at their nurseries. Nursery growers who have improved their businesses by implementing the program will be available to talk about their experiences at the booth.

OAN's Digger Magazine will be blogging, tweeting and posting to Facebook from the resource center and the show floor. The 2011-12 nursery guide will be available at the booth, and Murphy hopes computers will be available at the booth so attendees can visit the new online nursery guide -- www.nurseryguide.com -- which launches at the show.

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